REVIEW: Strap In For a Chaotically Funny ‘Joy Ride’

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Joy Ride — But Why Tho

Adult comedy films that embrace the messy parts of ourselves are always a fun time, but to craft something masterful out of that with all the gutter humor and a surprising amount of heart is unique. That’s Joy Ride. Directed by Adele Lim and written by Lim, Cherry Chevapravatdumrong, and Teresa Hsiao, Joy Ride had its world premiere at the 2023 SXSW Film & TV Festival. The film stars Ashley Park, Sherry Cola, Stephanie Hsu, and Sabrina Wu as a group of friends who get closer over the course of a road trip that changes them through sex, a bunch of cocaine, and finding out truths they weren’t aware of.

Joy Ride is erratic in its pacing, but it works perfectly as it tells a hilarious and unapologetically explicit story. But in all the humor, there is a story of identity and self-discovery that centers on four friends as they inadvertently road trip across Asia. When Audrey (Ashley Park) is an attorney whose business trip is her only path to becoming a Partner. Unable to speak Chinese, she enlists the aid of Lolo (Sherry Cola), her irreverent childhood best friend who also happens to be an unapologetic hot mess. Lolo brings her eccentric and awkward cousin Deadeye, and the group is rounded out when they meet up with Kat (Stephanie Hsu), Audrey’s college friend turned Chinese soap star. Joy Ride is a comedy of errors that gets increasingly emotional as it gets increasingly explicit, unlike anything else I’ve seen.

There is debauchery, schemes that don’t work, and a no-holds-barred approach to the messiness of friendship and people that is refreshing to see in a female-centered story, especially one featuring non-white women. But even with how hard the film goes on explicit comedy, it still manages to tell a salient story about belonging. While Audrey’s part in the story explores themes of never feeling like you’re enough for either side of your identity, Deadeye’s sense of belonging is built around their gender identity, and how they find meaning and friendship online, Kat’s story is wrapped up in hiding parts of herself in order to be accepted by her fiance, and finally, Lolo is just trying to maintain her creativity and irreverent identity when the world says she shouldn’t. These four people couldn’t have been more different, but on this road trip, you can see how they all are dealing with the same questions and fears.

They get to be vulgar when they want to, but through Deadeye, we also get to see someone exploring their identity in a way that allows them not to be pushed into the horniness of their friends and still be accepted. It’s a small note that a loud movie may not be aware to everyone, but showcasing how loving these friends are is important. While Kat, Lolo, and Audrey speak to women in the audience to let themselves be as chaotic as possible, Deadeye also highlights that it’s okay to take a different path and, ultimately, to see the representation of a non-binary character that isn’t white is a breath of fresh air. Yes, the film is a rager of a comedy, but the way it grounds its message of allowing yourself grace to be you is phenomenal.

Joy Ride — But Why Tho

The ability to thread together women on different paths as they ride toward the same point on a map is wonderful.  I love Joy Ride for a simple reason, it’s raunchy and chaotic and shows women in a comedy in a way we rarely see. The cast of Joy Ride is messy, struggling in their own ways, which ultimately allows them to learn and grow from each other. While you’ll find each woman individually charming, the chaos they create together is amazing and gorgeously hilarious. Not only that, but the film embraces sex and sexuality in a way that puts women and their pleasure in the longest and most sex-forward scene I’ve seen in a comedy, well, ever. And even in the raunchy and explicit moments, it’s always funny first and with a larger intent to drive the narrative and help you understand the characters.

When you walk into Joy Ride, the message that this R-rated comedy delivers is that all you need to be is yourself, no matter how ugly that is sometimes and no matter how much mess you cause. Lean on your girls, be a wreck, and embrace what gets thrown at you without worrying about what those around you think. And to deliver that with so gut-busting humor at the same time is a feat so few comedy writers and directors can achieve. Not only would I show up to the theater for a sequel with these same characters, but I’m going to follow Lim’s film journey wherever she goes, as well as the actresses who brought these characters to life.

Joy Ride is easily going to become an adult comedy classic. Every bit of Joy Ride works, from the score, characters, and takes on living in the diaspora to the mature jokes that blend gutter humor and takes on society. Give Adele Lim, Cherry Chevapravatdumrong, and Teresa Hsiao the keys to the Hollywood Comedy Kingdom, and let them start calling the shots, please.

Joy Ride had its World Premiere at the 2023 SXSW Film & TV Festival and plays nationwide in theaters July 7, 0223.

Joy Ride (2023)
  • 9/10
    Rating - 9/10


Joy Ride is easily going to become an adult comedy classic. Every bit of Joy Ride works, from the score, characters, and takes on living in the diaspora to the mature jokes that blend gutter humor and takes on society.

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